Thursday, August 23, 2007

online writing workshops?

I spent the morning kicking around the web through a variety of websites, google searches, JSTOR articles, compfaq and CompPile searches, etc. in search of some specifics on online/virtual/electronic peer review (or writing workshops). I spent about an hour and a half. It was an exhausting search and didn't yield the kind of results I was hoping for: suggestions for specific technology, logistics, results. From the tidbits I was able to find, I learned that research favors asynchronous over synchronous peer review. This is making me re-think my original idea, which was to use chatzy, in favor of using wikis. Still, I haven't quite figured out exactly how I am going to do this: have students post a page that is their essay, and then use the discussion section to answer workshop directing questions? Should students be able (in true wiki) fashion to intervene in the original text? My impulse is to say yes, as the author can view the history of changes, but what are the drawbacks to this idea? I'd definitely like to do more reading about this. I've gone ahead and ordered myself the book Virtual Peer Review: Teaching and Learning about Writing in Online Environments, despite it being in hardcover and way to much money for me too be spending right now.

In my online travels I also came across some references to designing hybrid courses, so I'd like to look further into those as well.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Note to self (but meant to be read by anyone interested)

Do NOT assume that just because you've been assigned a hybrid course of which one credit is digital that you'll be assigned to a computer classroom that allows you to teach the technology necessary to making the digital aspect possible. Such assumptions will hurt you, when, a week before classes start you suddenly check the classroom space and see rows of tables as opposed to computers, and you nearly have a heart attack. These are things you need to ask for and agressively pursue. Please remember this in the future.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

RSS for the Fall

I spent yesterday afternoon and this morning toying around with ideas for how I want to integrate RSS into my classes this Fall. All three of the classes I'm teaching are hybrids -- a new idea that CSR is working with that has one credit of a four-credit course as a digital credit. In some ways I'll just be doing what I've been doing -- having students blog, work with wikis, etc. -- only I'll be able to have that extra credit hour a week to work in these digital arenas as opposed to doing it on top of all the traditional f2f reading and writing that goes on in the classroom. I'm also hoping that students won't be quite as shocked by and resistant to the online work now that it is "officially" a part of the class (though I've always included it in my course descriptions, students have always expressed surprise over the required blogging).

Over the past couple of semesters, I've experimented with different approaches to teaching students RSS. First semester we used flock. Second semester I had them use google reader. My concern is that students aren't checking their readers regularly. This is most important in terms of the class blog, because that is the space with the greatest number of updates and the material pertains to class, assignments, etc. For reading the blogs of their peers, it's okay to sit down when they're ready to comment, login to google reader, and start flipping through posts (although my problem with this is that it isn't the best way to really learn RSS and see the ways in which it can help manage all the web-based content out there).

So recently I've decided to take a bit more seriously the claim about email being for old people. Last week I was teaching a group of students between ninth and tenth grade as part of a program called Summerbridge (Philadelphia). We had a sesssion where we met with some admissions counselors, one of whom started talking to the kids about how they tend to communicate. I was actually surprised that all nineteen of the students present have a myspace/facebook account (they seemed so very young to me). Anyhow, the conversation led me to think about ways to integrate RSS with myspace/facebook as part of my upcoming hybrid classes -- with the thought that since these are the spaces that students visit each day, then these are the spaces in which to incorporate any class announcements or updates. The question left ahead of me: How?

For myspace I chose the SpringWidgets RSS reader (widget). And for facebook I finally found the application, myRSS, for feed subscriptions. I think these will work well for staying abrest of the class blog updates (for those who have myspace/facebook accounts). The questions I'm left with: Are these widgets/applications the best way to utilize RSS? Probably not. Are they appropriate for keeping the subscriptions to all of their classmates' blogs? Probably not. What about students who don't have a myspace or facebook?

Ultimately, I think I will have them use google reader as a supplement to these additions on their social networking site of choice. I don't want any of this to seem too cumbersome, because I really want students to see the ways in which RSS can help make their learning, researching, etc. processes more effective and efficient (and more interesting and diverse to some extent). For now I'll continue to play around with various ideas, and on the first day of class, I'll really need to get a sense of how many students have these accounts (and utilize them regularly) that will certainly affect and direct my thinking and practice in terms of RSS (and other digital practices) for this Fall semester.